Q: Can you tell me what the Street Shooters is all about?
A: The Street Shooters NG is a street photography collective in Nigeria. It is made up of mostly emerging photographers in Nigeria who collectively go out on the streets to shoot from time to time.
Q: Why street shooting? What motivates the initiative?
A: I chose street photography because it enables me to understand my reality, and to express my interpretation of the world around me. When I decided to specialise on street photography, I had several projects I wanted to work on. But when I went out on the streets to start working on these projects, I had a lot of challenges. From the hostility of people, to harassment by area boys, to arrest by the police.
Later on, I realized that when several photographers go out on the streets together, the challenges I faced as an individual becomes drastically reduced. That is why I formed the Street Shooters NG. Thus, the Street Shooters NG is my way of dealing with those challenges.
Q: What are the hazards of your genre of photography?
A: The hazards are many, and they are inherent in the society we live in. Although not peculiar to our society, it is much severe here. The state of our security also makes matters worse. When people see you brandishing a big camera on the street and taking photos, a lot goes through their minds. They think you are up to no good. It’s either you are spying on them for the government or the newspapers or some other thing that is will end up bad for them. So they get scared and become hostile. The thing is, most people are afraid of what they don’t understand. The police too are afraid of you because they know they are always doing something improper and if you capture them in such a state, the repercussions for them will be grave. The area boys on the other hand just like to show how aggressive they are every chance they get, so we suffer from them a lot.
Personally, I’ve been arrested by the police; I’ve been threatened a lot of times by people; and I’ve been beaten up by area boys. It’s a miracle I have been able to scale through it all with my camera still intact.
Q: Of what benefit is this to photography?
A: Our primary mission is to ensure street photography gain acceptability in Nigeria. It is our hope that by going on the streets all the time, Nigerians will get used to us and therefore tolerate the individual street photographer more. We also want to be the bearer of our own torch. We want to tell our stories ourselves. The days when outsiders come to tell jaundiced stories about us are over. We want to project the positives in our society to the world. And we want to do it, not through sugarcoated stories, but through the realistic form that is street and documentary photography.
Q: What comes to mind when you aim to take a shot?
A: How to compose the image, the perfect angle to shoot from and the right settings to use. Depending on how significant the shot is, I also think about the risks involved. If it’s of a person that might be offended, I consider asking the person for permission to take the shot.
Q: Do you have any national project in mind?
A: So far, our walks have been holding within Lagos. The pictures taken at the last photowalk in Mile 12 which shows how enterprising the people working there are will be published into a book and presented to the state government. We are also working on giving the Street Shooters NG a proper structure and backing whereby every member can go out on their own to shoot without fear, no matter what part of the country they are. Another plan we have is making sure we document every national event that takes place in the country.
Q: If opportune, who would you wish to photograph on the street?
A: That will be Governor Fashola. I hear he goes out on the streets to inspect on-going projects from time to time.
Q: How Profitable is this genre?
A: A lot of people don’t know this, but street photography is much more profitable and prestigious than other genres of photography. There are a lot of opportunities in this field; you just have to poised to get them. There are workshops and residences and commissions all over the world organized specifically for street photographers. Not to talk of exhibitions where you can sell one of your works for as much as $2,000.
Q: What can you say about Peter Obe?
A: Although I didn’t really know much about him prior to now, I have however been hearing a lot about him, especially after his death a few days ago. I did a little research and discovered all the work he did documenting the Nigerian civil war and pioneering photojournalism. Evidently, he was a great guy.
Q: How can you photographically caption Nigeria’s present situation?
A: I will say we are caught up in a time warp. Like, a lot is going on presently and there’s a potential for a brighter future but at the same time, we are still stuck with our old ways.
Q: Photography is becoming an all comers affair, do you envisage a meltdown?
A: No, I don’t. I think we are growing bigger, actually. After the music/movies and fashion industry, I think photography is the fastest growing industry in Nigeria. A lot of development is going on in the field and the Street Shooters NG is also an agent of that development.
This interview was first published in the PM Newspapers of 29 October 2013.